Sunday, May 20, 2018
News Roundup

Dunedin pipe band director will get salary boost

DUNEDIN — The director of Dunedin's award-winning pipe band might be getting a raise.

City commissioners have directed budget planners to increase band leader Iain Donaldson's salary as part of an anticipated cost-sharing partnership with the Pinellas County School District.

The collaboration restores funding the school system provided before the economy soured.

For several years, Dunedin has funded the position at a reduced rate of $15,000 a year. Booster clubs at Dunedin Highland Middle School and Dunedin High School have annually chipped in an additional $5,000 each.

The result: $25,000 a year, or about $8 an hour, for a year-round job that requires upwards of 60 hours a week plus self-funded travel to competitions and presentations around the world, including in Scotland and at Walt Disney World.

But last week, city staff announced that months of prodding had persuaded school superintendent Mike Grego and other school district staffers to verbally commit to an annual $20,000 for the position.

Dunedin commissioners unanimously voted to also raise the city's annual contribution to $20,000, contingent on a written commitment from district leaders.

That means a proposed $40,000 a year for Donaldson, as well as a cost savings for school volunteers who can now shift fundraising efforts toward uniforms, equipment and travel.

"That position was what was keeping our Scottish tradition going for years to come. It was teaching our youth," Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski told the audience at last week's City Commission meeting, which included about a dozen former pipe band members. "It's a huge, huge win."

The city last school year expanded its program into the elementary level through after-school beginner piping and Scottish dance classes.

Commissioners and supporters said they will continue talks with the district in hopes of launching a Scottish arts academy at Dunedin High School that would create a niche and draw students from around Pinellas County, similar to magnet offerings at other high schools like Tarpon Springs High School, which has a culinary arts program.

Commissioners split on tax hike

Commissioners remain divided over City Manager Rob DiSpirito's suggestion that the city fill an anticipated multimillion dollar budget shortfall by raising the property tax rate next year by 10.4 percent.

Commissioners Julie Scales, Ron Barnette and Heather Gracy called the hike — to $3.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value — "modest" and past due. It would generate $595,000 more in revenue a year, providing a steady income stream to fund public services.

But Julie Bujalski and Mayor Dave Eggers said they favor budget planners' Plan B: holding off on the tax rate increase for at least a year and instead filling the budget gap using risk safety fund reserves.

Plan B, they said, might let the city avoid a tax spike in future years by giving recently hired finance director Karen Feeney time to study funding alternatives and the economy time to improve.

The two also questioned the proposed use of risk safety reserves to fund expansion projects at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, Dunedin Historical Museum and Blatchley House.

The city manager said he prefers cash over a loan for those projects because the city needs to save debt capacity for future "unknowns," like the replacement city hall annex and either improvements or repurposing of Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

However, Bujalski objects to using risk safety funds outside that department. And Eggers said loan rates today are cheaper than they will be in a few years.

Furthermore, Bujalski said, she's uncomfortable with several budget recommendations that run counter to those presented by the previous finance director.

After watching a July commission workshop, the Board of Finance, a citizen volunteer group that reviews the budget, wrote a letter supporting Plan B. Bujalski said the group recently complained that members didn't have the opportunity to review several budget items, as they have in the past.

"We haven't done the things we need to do to know (that a millage increase is) needed or how much is needed," Bujalski said after the meeting. "I'm not just going to vote on a number. What's also weighing heavily on me is how unhappy the finance board is. They felt they were left in the dark. Their words are, 'There were more questions than answers.' "

Residents can weigh in on the budget during public hearings set for Sept. 12 and 26. The commission adopts the final budget at the Sept. 26 meeting, and the new budget year starts Oct. 1.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
For Bolts radio duo, being fans at heart is key to their success

For Bolts radio duo, being fans at heart is key to their success

As the last tension-filled seconds of a tight playoff game wind down, high above the Amalie Arena ice, the play-by-play man becomes increasingly animated.Dave Mishkin, eyes bulging, face purple, jumps from his seat, holding the headset with his left ...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Unveiling for

Unveiling for "Fortune Taylor Bridge" marker rained out, but celebration continues indoors

TAMPA — There’s a saying that everyone dies twice, Tampa City council member Guido Maniscalco said Sunday. Once, when they take their last breath. And again, the last time someone mentions their name.So in this case, he said, the name "Fortune Taylor...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

TAMPA – After spending four years at USF, Willie Taggart was used to the reception he'd get as a head football coach in the Tampa Bay area.But coming back as the new coach at Florida State, Taggart said, was different."Pretty cool," Taggart sai...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Lightning-Capitals: In playoffs, Lightning and its town become one

Lightning-Capitals: In playoffs, Lightning and its town become one

TAMPA — The Lightning is a win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup final. Its Game 5 win Saturday, to take a 3-2 lead over the Washington Capitals, was another chapter of a story being written on the fly."Think about Game 1 in New Jersey,"...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: Familiar ground for Capitals as they face elimination

Lightning-Capitals: Familiar ground for Capitals as they face elimination

TAMPA – Capitals G Braden Holtby basically summed up playoff life for the Capitals after Saturday's Game 5 loss in the Eastern Conference final when he said the team never makes it easy for itself."No, we don't," coach Barry Trotz agreed Sunday...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: Lightning keeps Alex Ovechkin under control

Lightning-Capitals: Lightning keeps Alex Ovechkin under control

TAMPA — Alex Ovechkin headed toward the Capitals' locker room two hours before the start of Saturday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final with the swagger of an elite athlete that suggested he was about take over a game and make life misera...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Angels, with Romo again as “the opener”

For starters: Rays at Angels, with Romo again as “the opener”

UPDATE, 2:27: If the Rays win today, it would be their first four-game sweep since Sept. 20-23, 2013, vs. Baltimore and first on the road since Aug. 16-19 here at Anaheim. … It also would be the first time they swept back to back series on the ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

SANTA FE, Texas — A 17-year-old student looking forward to celebrating his family's new swimming pool and a substitute teacher whose home frequently hosted family gatherings were among the 10 people killed in a mass shooting at a Texas high sch...
Updated: 8 hours ago